Hanging On The Edge Of A Cliff: Update On The Middle East

July 13, 2006
Mark Schannon

The Military Situation:  Escalation Beyond Lebanon

Sam Ghattas of AP reported at 5 p.m. (EDT) that Israel increased the level of its attacks against Lebanon with their biggest offensive since the 1982 invasion, imposing a naval blockade, attacking Beirut’s airport twice, and hitting two army bases close to Syria.  Israel’s army chief, Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz said “nothing is safe” in Lebanon.  All cities and especially Hezbollah offices and residents were targets.   

Hezbollah has also kept up its pressure, firing more than 100 rockets into Israel, one of which might have hit the city of Haifa.  “The Shiite militant group denied it had rocketed Haifa, where no injuries were reported,” Ghattas reported, but Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. called the attack “a major, major escalation.” 

In a report that has gotten little notice outside of Israel but has the potential to escalate the crisis across the region, The Jerusalem Post and el Haaretz today reported that

“Israel has concrete evidence that Hezbollah plans to transfer the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted Wednesday to Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Thursday.

"We have concrete evidence that Hezbollah plans to transfer the kidnapped soldiers to Iran. As a result, Israel views Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as the main players in the axis of terror and hate that endangers not only Israel, but the entire world," AFP quoted Deputy Director General of the Foreign Ministry Gideon Meir as saying.

Forbes reported that Israeli analysts have warned that Syria it could be the next target.  Syria supports Hezbollah and plays host to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal.  “But that seemed unlikely in the absence of a provocation,” the article said.  

While Israel holds Lebanon responsible for the raids, “Hezbollah fighters operate with almost total autonomy in southern Lebanon, and the government has no control over their actions. But Lebanon has long resisted international pressure to disarm the group.”   

OC Northern Command Lt.-Gen. Udi Adam said Thursday evening that the army has hit hundreds of targets in Lebanon since Wednesday night. Adam added that Israel has not ruled out sending ground forces into Lebanon. He told reporters that even Northern Command had come under Katyusha fire during the day. "I imagine over time that we will be able to rid ourselves of this threat entirely," he said.  

Tap Dancing On The International Stage

President Bush defended Israel's attacks but expressed concern about toppling the fragile Lebanese government. "Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush said at a news conference in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life." 

Western countries, Russia, and the United Nations called for restraint and demanded the return of the soldiers. The Arab League called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday, while the Lebanese Cabinet urged the U.N. to intervene, but all they got was a promise by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send three veteran U.N. officials to the area to try to defuse the crisis. 

In a turnabout from last night’s response, The European Union “criticized Israel for using what it called "disproportionate" force in its attacks.”  EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he too was planning a peace mission.

Although there has been no media response or analysis, a review of comments by moderate Arab governments showed relative restraint, “apparently reflecting a sentiment in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that Hezbollah — and by implication its top ally Syria — had started the fight with Israel.”

On the other hand, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Israel's Lebanon offensive "is raising our fears of a new regional war" and urged world powers to intervene.  

The Analysts Begin To Weigh In 

Forbes reports that Israel appears to be using the current crisis to strike a decisive blow against what Haaretz military correspondent Zeev Schiff called an "extreme foursome" — Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. 

"What's off Israel's agenda is as significant as what's on it. The dual crises in Gaza and Lebanon have all but killed what was until recently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's top policy initiative: to withdraw from most of the West Bank in order to ensure a long-term Jewish majority for Israel."

"Katyushas and Qassam rockets, not demographics, now look like Israel's most pressing threat," wrote Aluf Benn, political correspondent for Israel's Haaretz daily. 

Today’s Jerusalem Post ran an article, “Analysis:  Hoping the Ripples Reach Teheran.”   Reporter Herb Keinon wrote, “Lebanon is the pond, the IAF bombs are the stones, and the hope in Jerusalem is that hurling enough of those stones into the Lebanese pond will produce a ripple effect felt as far as Teheran.” 

The idea is that if Israel makes things difficult enough for Iran’s proxy, i.e. Hezbollah, Iran may get the right message.  Over the past two days, Israeli spokespeople have continued to claim that the Hezbollah raid had changed the rules of the game. 

“One of the rules of the game that Israel wants to change is that Iran has free rein to use its terrorist proxies to make Israel bleed at a whim.” 

Some question whether international pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear projects might be at play.  “There are few ways easier to divert the world's attention than opening up another front. Which is what Iran has done. Indeed they have opened up two fronts, just as the question of the Iranian nuclear issue is reaching a critical peak.” However, Keinon and others doubt that Israel is ready to take Iran on directly, but they have argued that Iranian Republican Guards are in Lebanon directing Hezbollah actions and those soldiers could be targeted. 

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Hanging On The Edge Of A Cliff: Update On The Middle East


Author: Mark Schannon


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Ruvy in Jerusalem
July 14, 2006
07:23 AM

Consider Mark,

IMHO, an Israeli military force has to take the initiative and destroy in entirety the missile pods of HizbAllah in Lebanon, invade the Bekaa Valley and occupy it permanently and warn the Iranians that further attempts to destabilize the Jewish state would be met with NUCLEAR retaliation and there would be NO warning.

Southern Lebanon must be reoccupied up to the Litani River and the PA totally destroyed. The Saudis must be similarly warned that ANY activity to destabilize the Jewish state would be met with NUCLEAR retaliation, and there would be NO warning. NONE.

Middle Easterners do not understand "messages". They only understand actions and words backed with actions.

Consider how this works. You have the set[WAHHABI]. Within this set, you have subsets [Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Saudi regime]. The head of the snake is the Saudi regime in Riyadh, the subset that finances the entire set. So, this must be the object of destruction. Who occupies the oil fields? Irrelevant. There is present in Israel TODAY the technology to make the Arab oilfields worthless.

That is what NEEDS to be done. The cowards in Jerusalem will not do this. They kowtow to the American and European régimes who prefer to deal with Arabs and find the elimination of Jews convenient, for a variety of reasons.

Again, victory is wthin our hands, and again the cowards in on government hill here will just walk away.

July 14, 2006
09:33 AM


use of force is the last tool in the hands of a state to achieve political objectives


this isreal-palestine imbroglio begs for political solutions

scarcity of statesmen on both sides!

without using sweetner will say IDF was forced to withdraw by the hezbollah...its only defeat in its brief history...but obviously...they have chosen not to learn from the lessons of that 'strategic' withdrawal...and are venturing in that territory again in perhaps a desperate bid to lure syria and iran...and in the process ignite a bigger war to involve the west...

is the irony lost?

the military might of israel failed to curb the hizbollahis...and now it wants the fragile forces of lebanaon to curb the hezbollahis?

remains to be seen if the world will once again be suckered in this imbroglio...

either that or peace with dignity for everyone in the region including israel

the choices are clear - but is there time and will?

July 14, 2006
03:18 PM

i find that the states of israel and others (palestine, syria, iran) are caught in a trap.

the field only seem to value the 'extreme' views and there seems to be no statesmen/women anywhere in sight.

while death of any civilian or innocent is unacceptable in the new world, that's what seems to be the mainstream thoughts. very unfortunately.

righteous anger and anguish are ok, but a militaristic solution in the world never was sustainable and would never be.

but public memories are so short, that they repeat historic mistakes.

no people in the world can be subjugated whatever the force. the vietnamese showed it.

it's easier to 'occupy' through cokes, macdonalds and hollywood than bombs. but it does not sound macho enough.

will the americans ever let saudi be a true democracy? can israel force the US to do it?

in my humble view - no way.

it's madness all around.

US has no guts to bomb north korea. that tells others to get n-bombs as a deterrent against the US.

the best for the world would be when US keeps off the mid-east.

and let israel defend itself. in its own way. without the billions that american citizens pay for israel, the country would figure out a way of dealing with its neighbors.

and let go of the house of saud. stop supporting it. let people of saudi arabia define their destiny.

let the american public pay for what it actually costs for petrol. as most on the globe do it.

and let US be what its founding fathers wanted. keep off global politics. focus only on its economics. no fantasies of an empire.

i guess that would do the trick. it's my fantasy.

July 14, 2006
04:13 PM

Personal attacks not tolerated.

July 14, 2006
04:37 PM


Israel has tried every non-violent approach short of agreeing to leave and settle in Lithuania. Every concession they make is met with nothing in return. I don't come to this decision lightly, but I've realized that Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the other terrorist states will only be satisfied when Israel is wiped off the face of the map.

In that case, Israel's only recourse is to make it so painful for them that they have to give in. I know full well what the implications may be--for the entire world--but "Never Again."

July 14, 2006
04:47 PM

markie i'am in full support of the Israeli action against the terrorists. but please for gods sake atleast now finish the job don't leave the snake half wounded. we made that mistake in 1971 and are paying the price. just this week the bloody pakis bombed innocent civilians in Mumbai trains.

July 14, 2006
05:15 PM

Mark, the fact is that there is no Arab govt with any credibility. Every last one of them is pointing guns at their own people. In that type of situation, can one expect anything else than belligerent stunts by those who are always in need of an external distraction to shore up their own shaky rule?

Paul Butterfield
July 17, 2006
11:43 AM

I can't believe some of the comments in this.

Israel is a fascist (and a partied) state. You cannot run a country were politics and religion are so inter-twinned for the benefit of the state. It does not work.
Israel was created with blood on its hand, using terrorists' tactics. Plans to murder British officials in Britain were well underway in the 1940s. The buying of military might. It's all documented. "Those who live by the sword", as they say.

The only way to remove the problem is to remove the extremists Zionists who not only control Israel but America and the world (by influence and money). All Israel has to do is ask America to help, and it goes and bombs Iraq, with the intention of destabilising Iraq, with the three Arab groups now preoccupied fighting and killing each other. A perfect plan that has worked for Israel. Funded by American and British soldiers' lives. It seems to forget that it has received $1.5 trillion of American funds to build their cities and towns out of the desert, including their "Military Might".

For years Britain would not negotiate with the IRA terrorists. (Like Israel's stance) Once that extreme right wing Mrs Thatcher was removed and Blair was in power, we made progress. We even released the IRA terrorists just to get peace in Northern Ireland. Captured solders are not worth killing more people over. They volunteered to fight for their own country, to be a pawn for the better cause. No one gives a damn about the Palestinian young men kept in Israeli prisons without charge.
Israel, has broken too many UN resolutions and has a lot to answer for, to be "Whiter than white".

July 17, 2006
12:01 PM

paul are u high on cocaine or something. if u gotta something useful to contribute please do. It looks like u want to start a fan club for the suicide bombers or become one urself.

July 17, 2006
01:13 PM

Paul (You wouldn't be Paul Butterfield from the old Blue's Band, would you...nah...)

Anyway, your post is nothing but a series of senseless, historically inaccurate rants. But the funniest part is that you don't even know your own history. Check out the April 2006 Atlantic Monthly article, "Double Bind, The untold story of how British Intelligence infiltrated and undermined the IRA."

It had nothing to do with had to do with the fact that by the time British Intelligence was done, the IRA was destroyed from within.

In Decaf Veritas

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